“Please talk with your children about what happened and reassure them that there are strategies in place both at home and school to ensure safety.” — Part of the note from the school principal after an active shooter lockdown. (Note: It turned out to be a false report and everyone is safe)
Nope, I can’t do that. I don’t lie to my kids. I am well aware the note from the school’s administrators is well-meaning, and I am well aware they are truly doing all they can to keep our kids safe. And with all due respect to the principal, it is utter bullshit. I’m not going to lie and tell my kids that there are strategies in place to ensure their safety.
Not when firearms are so readily available in this country. Not when people have poor coping skills and lash out when they feel invalidated, frustrated, angry, lonely. Not when our country’s leaders encourage people to view fellow neighbors as Others. Not when these same leaders actively invalidate others’ humanity.
I get it. The school has active shooter protocols and drills. The police department has the same. These don’t ensure my children’s safety though. They are plans to react to an active shooter. A response plan isn’t ensuring safety. It’s a hopeful strategy that casualties will be minimized. Ensuring safety and minimizing casualties are two completely different things.
That’s what I’m going to tell my kids. I’m going to tell them that a better plan to ensure their safety is to vote for leaders who support gun control. I am going to tell them we must hold our policymakers accountable. Let me be clear. No one is considering changing any constitutional amendment. You want your guns? You’ve got your guns. What we don’t have is a system in place that prevents people who shouldn’t have guns, get guns. If you really believe that any slippery slope will lead to taking your guns away, let’s talk. But only if you come to the table with facts and sources.
I’m going to tell my kids that a better plan to ensure their safety is to vote for leaders who actively work to validate all humans. That includes equal rights for every human. That includes examining policies that have intended or unintended consequences that marginalize or penalize certain populations. This is not pie, folks. Giving people rights doesn’t mean taking any away from you. Preventing people from their rights pisses them off and creates an Other Group. We’re less likely to hurt someone if we can connect with someone, if we can recognize something familiar in them.
I’m going to tell my kids that a better plan to ensure their safety is to encourage others to learn better coping mechanisms. To talk to people about how to deal with frustration, how to cope with anger, how to deal with loneliness. To talk to people about perspective and gratitudes. To talk to people so they know they matter. Shooting people, mailing bombs, resorting to violence are the crudest, most immaturely developed coping skills ever. We need to teach people how to deal with hard things and yucky feelings without resorting to lashing out in violence.
I’m going to tell my kids that active shooter drills and lockdown plans don’t solve any problem, that they only make people feel safe but the problem still exists. The problem is that we deserve better than to live with the current reality that our kids might get shot in school one day. I am not going to tell my kids that this is just part of life. This is not acceptable. Making people feel safe doesn’t mean they are safe. We should be outraged by our children’s fears. We should not accept that this current reality is our future reality.
What is acceptable is teaching my kids how to be activists. What is acceptable is teaching them how to do their part daily with their interactions with others to show kindness and acceptance, and to help peers cope. What is acceptable is teaching them how to challenge racism, misogyny, hateful speech. What is acceptable is giving them agency to do so. What is acceptable is to challenge myths and lies with facts. I know, you’re thinking this is so off-topic from school shooters. But every voice counts, and we must change the narrative and expectations of how we deal with guns and people and problems and feelings. It’s not OK to hurt people, with words or bullets. Is it touchy feely? Maybe, but that doesn’t make it wrong.
It’s macro and micro. We must change laws and policies. We must change how we interact with each other. We must change how we define a problem and how we choose to solve it. The problem is that our children are literally not safe in schools. Making it harder for a shooter to enter the building and classrooms is a band-aid, it is not the solution. If you think that it is the solution, you’re part of the problem.